1st Edition

Ethical Debates in Orangutan Conservation

By Alexandra Palmer Copyright 2020
    260 Pages
    by Routledge

    260 Pages
    by Routledge

    Ethical Debates in Orangutan Conservation explores how conservationists decide whether, and how, to undertake rehabilitation and reintroduction (R&R) when rescuing orphaned orangutans. The author demonstrates that exploring ethical dilemmas is crucial for understanding ongoing disagreements about how to help endangered wildlife in an era of anthropogenic extinction.

    Although R&R might appear an uncontroversial activity, there is considerable debate about how, and why, it ought to be practised. Drawing on in-depth qualitative research with orangutan conservation practitioners, this book examines how ethical trade-offs shape debates about R&R. For example, what if the orphan fails to learn how to be an orangutan again, after years in the company of humans? What if she is sent into the forest only to slowly starve? Would she have been better off in a cage? Could the huge cost of sending a rescued ape back to the wild be better spent on stopping deforestation in the first place? Or do we have a moral obligation to rescue the orphan regardless of cost? This book demonstrates that deconstructing ethical positions is crucial for understanding ongoing disagreements about how to help our endangered great ape kin and other wildlife.

    Ethical Debates in Orangutan Conservation is essential reading for those interested in conservation and animal welfare, animal studies, primatology, geography, environmental philosophy, and anthropology.



    Introduction: To Save is to Sacrifice



    What Are Ethics?

    Conservation, Welfare, Liberation

    Triage and Trade-Offs


    Chapter 1: Orangutans and their Conservation

    Orangutans: A Natural and Cultural History

    Conservation: The Old, the New, and the Ugly

    Pancasila and Palm Oil: Conservation in Indonesia

    Orangutans as Tourism Mascots: Conservation in Malaysian Borneo

    "Please Don’t Set Up Any More!" The NGO Network

    Orangutans in the Anthropocene

    Chapter 2: Kill, Incarcerate, or Liberate? Alternatives to Reintroduction

    Orangutan Reintroduction: Conservation Tool or Cry in the Wilderness?

    Replenishing Wild Populations: A Post-Hoc Argument?

    Forest Restoration and Protection: Reintroduction as Political Incentive for Conservation

    Law Enforcement: Is Trade a Cause of Consequence of Orangutan Endangerment?

    Ignoring Displaced Wildlife "Breaks the Hearts of People": Educational Benefits of R&R

    Freedom isn’t Free: The Cost-(In)effectiveness of R&R


    What Counts as Euthanasia?

    Personhood and Penance: Orangutan Rights and Human Responsibilities

    Sentience and Speciesism: The Ethics of Killing Orangutans Versus Other Species


    Surplus and Scarcity: The Practical Problem of Housing Orphaned Orangutans

    Where is "Home"? Orangutans and Nationality

    Life of Luxury or Prison? The Welfare Implications of Captivity Versus the Wild

    Integrity, Islam, and Independence: Wildness as Inherently Valuable

    Weighing Wildness and Welfare

    Chapter 3: What is a Rehabilitation Centre? Boundary-Work in Conservation

    What’s in a Name? The Preference for "Rehabilitation Centre" Over "Sanctuary"

    To Breed or Not to Breed? Distinguishing Rehabilitation Centres from Zoos

    Dehuminization and Dualisms: Defining Wildness

    Sustainability and Sacrifice: The Ethics of Wildlife Tourism

    A Tenuous Boundary?

    A Counter Example: Rehabilitation Centre or Release Site?

    Chapter 4: Sense and Sentimentality: Emotion in Environmental Ethics

    Eyes and PIEs: The Development of Ethical Stances

    Feelings and Facts: The Relationship Between Emotion and Rationality

    Selfishness and Sacrifice: Two Specific Worries About Emotion in Orangutan Conservation

    Triage and Trouble: More Thought, Not Less Emotion

    Chapter 5: No Space on the Ark: Triage in Wildlife Rescue

    Selecting Citizens: Sacrifice and Speciesism in Admission Practices

    Creating Two Problems, or Solving One? The Dilemma of Translocation

    The Sliding Scale

    Chapter 6: Wild, Well, or Free? Ethical Debates in Rehabilitation Methods

    Motherly or Tough Love? Negotiating Human-Orangutan Boundaries in Rehabilitation

    Persevering Purity or Process? Mixing Taxa at Release Sites

    Defining Unreleasability: Training, Trauma, and Triage

    Wild Abandon(ment): The Challenges of Post-Release Monitoring

    The "Grey Zone": Healthcare and the Transition to Wildness

    Free or Enslaved? Post-Release Feeding and the Question of Free Will

    Who is the Expert?

    Chapter 7: Bosses, Baddies, and "Baby Huggers": The Ethics of Conservation Fundraising

    Oversight and Ownership: Relationships with Foundations and Donor-NGOs

    Palm Oil and Other Dirty Money

    Playing to the "Baby Huggers": Cuteness and Commodification

    Expertise and Ethics: Two Worries About Fundraising

    Chapter 8: The "Dark Side": (Un)ethics and Whistleblowing in Conservation

    My Orangutan, Your Orangutan: Narratives of Collaboration and Conflict

    Public or Private Secrets? The Ethics of Whistleblowing

    Should Outsiders Speak Out?

    Conclusion: Ethics in the Anthropocene





    Alexandra Palmer is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Geography at the University of Oxford, with a background in social anthropology and primatology. Her work centres around ethical dimensions of human relationships with other animals, especially non-human primates. Ethical Debates in Orangutan Conservation is based on her doctoral work at University College London. Her other research has looked at zookeeper–orangutan relationships and ethics and regulation in non-laboratory animal research (including with wildlife).

    "Masterfully weaving together rich ethnographic fieldwork with poignant scholarly analysis, Ethical Questions in Orangutan Conservation is a must-read for scholars and practitioners who are willing to stay with the trouble and to consider the real-life dilemmas of saving while sacrificing nonhuman animals in the Anthropocene."
    - Irus Braverman, author of Coral Whisperers: Scientists on the Brink


    "Via a thoroughly anthropological lens Palmer takes us through the biopolitics of orangutan conservation and much, much more. Her theme of triage and her deft interweaving of multiple intellectual and methodological threads produces an engaging, highly complex, and totally fascinating view into core dilemmas of the Anthropocene."
    - Agustín Fuentes, The Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Professor of Anthropology, Chair of the Department of Anthropology